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Their chil­dren will not get clothes for Christ­mas this year, and they won’t have school uni­forms for next year.

Fam­i­lies from Alexan­dra’s Greenville in­for­mal set­tle­ment lost this and more af­ter their homes were de­stroyed by fire at about lunchtime on Thurs­day.

Asanda Zondo gazed in de­spair at the rem­nants of her home on Fri­day morn­ing. She’s just one of at least 400 res­i­dents whose 150 shacks were de­stroyed in the blaze.

With her one-year-old baby on her back, the mother of two told City Press that the clothes they were wear­ing were all they had left.

“I saw the fire com­ing to­wards my house. I could not save ev­ery­thing. I took what I could, in­clud­ing my chil­dren, but I couldn’t get their clothes – in­clud­ing those that I bought for them for Christ­mas. My ID and their birth cer­tifi­cates were also de­stroyed. I lost ev­ery­thing,” she said, ad­ding that res­i­dents tried to fight the fire, but to no avail.

The fire also de­stroyed the food she’d bought for her chil­dren.

“We need Pu­rity, yo­gurt and nap­pies. We also need clothes,” she said.

Lwan­diso Dlamini said the clothes he bought for his daugh­ter, neph­ews and nieces for Christ­mas were left be­hind in his one-bed­room shack, which was con­sumed by the fire. He doesn’t know whether he will be able go home to Umz­imkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal, over the fes­tive sea­son.

“My worry is that my fam­ily is go­ing to think that I’m ly­ing, and that I mis­used the money and now I can­not get home. I don’t know how I am go­ing to han­dle this, but, as a man, I must make a plan. At least I’m still alive,” he said.

Zusakhe Nog­waba-Xax­aka said her twobed­room shack was burnt down along with her fur­ni­ture, plasma TV, cup­boards, TV stand, fridge and mu­sic sys­tem.

She re­turned to the scene af­ter re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at a lo­cal clinic for smoke in­hala­tion, which she sus­tained while try­ing to re­trieve some of her daugh­ter’s Christ­mas clothes.

“Ev­ery­thing that I’ve worked hard for is gone. We re­ally need houses,” she said.

Yes­ter­day, fam­i­lies were sal­vaging what they could of their be­long­ings, while oth­ers tried to re­build their shacks with fire-dam­aged ma­te­ri­als. There was a queue for soup pro­vided by the Gift of the Givers NGO in a tent nearby.

Some res­i­dents said they be­lieved a man from out­side the com­mu­nity started the fire in re­venge af­ter he fought with a lo­cal. But oth­ers quickly pointed out that it was not known who started the blaze, or why.

Gaut­eng po­lice spokesper­son Cap­tain Mavela Ma­sondo said a sus­pected ar­son­ist died in hos­pi­tal af­ter res­i­dents as­saulted him on Thurs­day. A case of mur­der was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, as was whether the man started the fire. No ar­rests had been made by the time of go­ing to print.

An­gry Alexan­dra res­i­dents protested near a tent where Gaut­eng Pre­mier David Makhura spoke about the ur­gent in­ter­ven­tions that would be made by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and the City of Joburg. One of the pro­test­ers was Duma Ku­lashe, who said they were there to vent their frus­tra­tions over the lack of RDP houses.

“These peo­ple here in­vaded this land; that is why there are shacks here. This should be where our houses are built. We want to meet with the pre­mier to dis­cuss our con­cerns,” Ku­lashe said.

Makhura told the Greenville fam­i­lies that their homes would be re­built im­me­di­ately, and that of­fi­cials would pro­vide sup­port for those who lost their IDs, birth cer­tifi­cates and chil­dren’s school uni­forms.

“We don’t want you to still be where you are by Christ­mas. We must re­build as soon as pos­si­ble. We must work to­gether,” he said. Is it up to gov­ern­ment do to ensure peo­ple have safe houses to live in?

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